Vivan Stanshall is a much-missed genius of weirdness. In the book, I was going to use part of this quote from Rhinocratic Oaths by the Bonzo Dog Doo-dah Band, for his lovely surreal take on the way that neighbours can define themselves and compete through their garden hedge maintenance:
Much as he hated arguments or any kind of unpleasantness, Ron Shirt thought things had gone too far when, returning from a weekend in Clapton, he found that his neighbour had trimmed the enourmous hedge dividing their gardens into the shape of a human leg.
Enraged and envious beyond belief, Ron seized his garden shears and clipped his white poodle Leo into a coffee table.
“That’ll fix it,” thought Ron, but he was wrong.
The following Wednesday his neighbour had his bushy waist-length hair cut and permed into a model of the Queen Elizabeth and went sailing.
Everywhere he went, people said “Hooray!”
Sometimes you just can’t win.
The complexity of getting permissions for song lyrics mean I left this out in the end, but I’ll put it up here anyway. You can hear the song in all its glory on Youtube here:
On the same subject of bizarre suburban disputation, it’s also worth listening to My Pink Half of the Drainpipe.
There was an interesting (if slightly fluffy) documentary on the problems caused between neighbours by overgrown leylandii on BBC1 tonight. It can be watched again on the iPlayer.
Ray Davies of the Kinks is probably the greatest London songwriter ever. I was going to use this quote from Autumn Almanac in the book but I’ve just cut a section and I can’t fit it in any more, so I’ll put it here instead.
From the dew-soaked hedge, creeps a crawly caterpillar
When the dawn begins to crack.
Nice to see all the hedges coming back to life in the spring: Sunday was an especially lovely day, and I took a few pictures of the garden hedges around my area:
I think this is a cherry laurel. It’s an evergreen, but you can see the fresh green of the new little leaves.
Flowers in the hedge:
Privet – this is a hedge that was cut back during the winter so was almost completely bare, now the new leaves are starting to grow:
I think this is red-tip photinia, though feel free to correct me. Either way, it’s a lovely spring hedge species as the new leaves are bright red, and as striking as any blossom, flower or berry.
And my miniature box, still pretty small but some promising new growth.
These hedges are from the 18th-century elliptical walled garden at Netherbyres in East Lothian. The garden is over half a hectare and includes Victorian glasshouses, as well as a wide range of fruit and vegetables, flowers, herbs, climbers, and other plantings.
It’s not open to the public, as the house has become a home for retired gardeners.
Thanks to Betsy for the pictures.
Hedges are an important habitat for birds. Most birds that nest in trees adapt to hedges if there is sufficient cover. Many original woodland species now rely on hedges for their habitat. Blackbirds, chaffinches, linnets, whitethroats and yellowhammers aren’t found in non-woodland areas without hedges. And many more species, including finches, thrushes, skylarks and jays can be found either nesting or feeding in hedges.
At my mother’s house recently I spent ages trying to take a decent picture of the horde of birds that flit in and out of her hedges. But they tended to see me coming and all disappear, so this is the only one I got where you can even see a bird, and because of the angle you can’t really see it’s a hedge.
I won’t be applying for a job as a wildlife photographer any time soon. I don’t have the patience.